Review: Gainward GTX 260 GS Nitro-ed to 720MHz
Nitro is a little piece of hardware we've been using on our desk to alter the graphics card's clocks. This useful little gadget was initially intended for overclocking Zotac's card only, but as of recently you can use it for all Geforce 8000 generation and higher cards. In order for Nitro to work though, you'll have to install FireStorm software version 1.015 or higher.
If you already own Nitro, you can find the FireStorm software version 1.015 here.
Nitro is an attractive little device, both in terms of looks and its capabilities. Users not experienced in overclocking might love it even more, as it provides a hassle-free method of overclocking your graphics card. Although Nitro is no longer exclusive to Zotac’s graphics cards, it’s only them that offer a warranty for potential damage that can occur when using this device. Let’s look at things from the bright side, Nitro is a nice insurance policy if you’re looking to overclock your Zotac graphics card.
Note that if you’re not overclocking, Nitro can’t do anything to your graphics card as it’s just a piece of hardware that connects to your computer via a USB cable and is used to control the FireStorm software. The software is installed in your OS and it works much like some other software overclocking tools (RivaTuner, EVGA Precision, Nvidia nTune, etc.) If you know nTune, you’ll notice that Zotac FireStorm’s interface resembles it closely.
Of course, you can purchase this device separately from the graphics card, and it comes safely wrapped in plastic, which lets you take a peek at Nitro.
Apart from the device, the packaging also features a nicely designed white holder. It’s quite heavy and has a rubber base, enabling it to stay fixed on the table without falling over while holding the device. In fact, you can even do your overclocking not getting the Nitro out of the holder.
Nitro connects to the computer via a 180cm USB cable, which is more than enough to place it on your desk, so that you can monitor the temperature, clock and fan speed readouts.
All the changes are done via three white buttons, and although you might find Nitro to be a bit plastic-like, we assure you it’s a very tough and robust device.
Although it might be a bit intimidating for users who’ve seen this for the first time, rest assured that the installation is easy and done in a few steps. All you have to do is install FireStorm software version 1.015 or higher, as this is the prerequisite for Nitro to work with any Geforce card. Without this application, you won’t be able to turn the device on.
After connecting the USB cable, you should insert the provided CD and start the installation. We skipped this step by downloading the last software version from Zotac's web portala (our CD contained the versio0n 1.011). In order to check whether it runs with other Geforce cards, we used Gainward’s GTX 260 Golden Sample card, one of the newer GTX 260 cards with 216 shader processors and a 55nm core.
Nitro powers up automatically when you start the FireStorm application.
Even when not operational, its vacuum fluorescent display (VFD) hints at the text and numbers. The monitor features great contrast and you’ll be seeing a clear picture regardless of the angle.
Gainward Geforce GTX 260 Golden Sample runs at 625MHz, clearly indicated on the VFD. The temperature and the fan speed are just above the blue threshold, meaning they’re quite good. The only thing we missed on the monitor is the temperature readout in digits, but you can always check it in the FireStorm app.
We reached 720MHz for the GPU with no trouble whatsoever, and we also started the RivaTuner in order to check how precise Nitro is in reading Gainward GTX 260 GS’s clocks.
One thing that we all wish for is saving the overclocking settings for later usage, and the new FireStorm software allows for saving different profiles. This feature, although functional, could’ve been tackled better as assigning a name can only be done via the FireStorm panel, and not directly via Nitro.
After we decided to save our current settings displayed on the VFD monitor, pressing the “Create” button didn’t show signs of activity on the monitor. We started wondering whether it works at all, but after we checked our FireStorm app we found our newly saved profile.
Before we move on, note that Nitro is controlled via three physical buttons located just below the monitor, and those are at the same time the only buttons on the device. Their function is changed depending on the monitor settings, and you’ll find the function written above the actual button. Nitro is nicely fixed in its place and you won’t have to hold it while pressing buttons.
You can create profiles directly from the FireStorm app, which is certainly a simpler way.
You can also use Nitro to navigate between various existing profiles, and after you make a choice you’ll have to confirm its activation, or else you’ll be stuck with current settings. While browsing through profiles, you’ll see their names appear on the monitor.
Using the three buttons and heeding the active commands, we’re reaching our final destination – an overclocked graphics card.
It’s no accident that Zotac allowed for Nitro to be used on all newer Geforce cards. This is an interesting device that, although frowned upon by some due to its €60 price, is supported by many as it’s a novelty.
We must admit though, that Nitro isn’t a special ingredient that would help hard-core overclockers and experienced users, but it’s a godsend to average users. Apart from its nice looks, Nitro is an efficient device that will help you boost your clocks and monitor your card at the same time. It’s also great that if you need more juice while gaming, Nitro allows for on-the-fly overclocking, and you won’t find yourself having to exit the game.
If you’re one of those that don’t mind splashing out for your rig’s lighting and various 'bling' accessories, you’ll find Nitro to be a much better and wiser investment, not to mention that Nitro will do much more to impress your gaming crew.